CS Teacher Series: The Importance of Computer Science By Alfred Thompson

| Alfred Thompson

Alfred Thompson, High School CS Teacher: http://blog.acthompson.net

National Computer Science Education Week is this week and we will be participating in a number of events in the area. We are also proud to feature local computer science teachers as a guest bloggers right here on the Microsoft New England blog. Each of these teachers inspired with their creative and thoughtful commitment to education. ~Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager – Microsoft New England.

Last year my school replaced a course on using applications (basically the Office Suite) with a course called Explorations in Computer Science. While we still spend some time on applications to make sure they know the basics, we changed the focus of the class. When we talk about Excel, for example, we do it in the context of it being a tool for solving real problems and doing data analysis rather than just the mechanics of the tool. And then we move on to real computer science. We focus on concepts and big ideas. We finish up the semester with some Visual Basic programming.

Why did we do this? Not to prepare everyone or indeed anyone for a career in computer science or software development. Rather we are looking to prepare students for the world around them. Computing is ubiquitous in the world today. There isn’t a field of endeavor that doesn’t involve computing. This is not just the obvious science, engineering and business either. A former student who is a blacksmith today told me once that understanding computer science and software helps him make better use of the CAD software he uses in his work.

We are trying to prepare students with a vocabulary and knowledge of concepts that will help them even if they do not become computer scientists or software developers. Of course we also hope to get them excited about computing. All too few students get a chance to really know what computer science is all about these days. If we don’t expose them to the joy of computing while they are young, it is easy for them to fall into the trap of just being consumers at a time when we need more creators.

Computing is a creative art as well as a mathematical or scientific area of study. It is one of the great ways to change the world for the better. Education is about opening doors for students, and the door into computer science is an important one.

Alfred Thompson is currently a high school computer science teacher. He has also been a professional software developer, a textbook author, a developer evangelist with Microsoft, a school technology coordinator, a school board member and more. These days he sees himself as something of a computer science education activist working to help reach more young people with the news that they can make the world a better place through software. Read more by Alfred Thompson at his Computer Science Teacher blog.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

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